Wales feasts on ‘waste’ food

‘Speak with your mouth full’ says a campaign group touring Wales and hosting feasts made from preventable food waste.

Campaigning through the celebratory act of feasting, a small group of artist-activists are touring events and festivals in Wales throughout the year to communicate the scale of preventable food waste in the UK.

From Cardiff to Bangor, via Hay-on-Wye, Machynlleth, and more between, at each location the campaign organisation This is Rubbish (TiR) will set up a renewably-powered food waste cafe. The team will host a two-day program at the cafe, featuring workshops, games and creativity, followed by a food waste feast for 30 people each evening.

While raising awareness of the problem of food waste and the associated environmental issues, TiR also wants to promote solutions in a fun, engaging and creative way. Through community and arts-led public events, TiR founders Caitlin Shepherd, Kate Blair and Rachel Solnick, believe that celebration can be an effective means of communicating needed change.

“It allows people to have fun first, then engage with the issue of food waste,” said Caitlin. “The irony with This is Rubbish feasts is that we celebrate an abundance that’s been declared useless.”

The organisation are targeting industry and retailers – the largest contributors to food waste in the UK – with some sincere calls for policy change. TiR want all members of the food sector to report on the food waste they generate in their activities, with annual reports audited and publicised by an independent commission. At the same time the government should introduce an obligation upon the food sector to reduce food waste, the organisation believes.

“These policy asks sound simple,” says Kate, “but they haven’t been done yet.” TiR aims to put pressure on the people who have the power to instigate these changes. During the feast tour, the group will host discussion and talks by policy advisors, researchers and artists, inspiring consumers to take action within their own lifestyles.

“If we can leave people feeling empowered with new skills and an increased understanding of the issue of food waste and the wider issue of food sustainability, then surely that’s a good thing,” said Caitlin. “Feast is an experience where people come together to celebrate what they can do together.”

Supporting the tour are a group of mentors, including: Clare Patey, artist and curator of the London event, Feast on The Bridge; Peter Gringold, director of arts and climate change organisation, Tipping Point; Geoff Tansey, Food Ethics Council advisor; Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University London; Carolyn Steel, author of Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives; and Guy Shrubsole, director at the Public Interest Research Centre.

The This is Rubbish team started campaigning against food waste during the Climate Camp 2009 event – before they had formed TiR as an organisation – where they provided people with pedal-powered food waste smoothies. Catching eyes and ears of others in the food waste debate, they were then invited to participate in events such as Feeding the 5000 in Trafalgar Square and a programme of food sustainability talks and workshops throughout 2010, including a mass fruit salad toss, in collaboration with the Arcola Theatre in London. Awarded a grant from the People’s Millions in December 2010, This is Rubbish are rapidly expanding. From a small team of dedicated volunteers, they have now become a community interest company (CIC) and are all pedals ahead for their feast tour of Wales this year.

This is Rubbish Feast tour dates:

  • Seed Savers Seedling Sunday, Machynlleth, 15 May
  • Green Horizons‘, Royal Welsh Smallholder show, Bullith Wells, 21-22 May
  • Hay Festival, Hay on Wye, 26-28 May
  • Swansea Environment Centre, Waste Week, Swansea, 20-21 June
  • Llanidlois Carnival, Llanidloes, 9-10 July
  • Narberth Food Festival, Narberth, 24-25 September
  • Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, August/September date tbc
  • Bangor Arts Festival, Bangor, 30 September – 1 October
  • Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth, December date tbc